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Society sees life on a US airbase

PUBLISHED: 19:20 04 April 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 06 July 2010

MEMBERS of Lowestoft Aviation Society paid a visit to the United States Air Force base at RAF Mildenhall in west Suffolk.

The base is home to, among other units, 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) of the 352nd Special Operations Group (SOG).

MEMBERS of Lowestoft Aviation Society paid a visit to the United States Air Force base at RAF Mildenhall in west Suffolk.

The base is home to, among other units, 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) of the 352nd Special Operations Group (SOG).The Squadron is descended from the World War 2nd SOS which flew as part of the Air Commandos in support of Allied clandestine operations against Japanese-occupied South-East Asia.

The visit began with a detailed, nose-to-tail tour of the interior of a 7th SOS MC-130H Combat Talon II. This aircraft is a considerably modified variant of the familiar C-130 Hercules transport. The Talon II can make very accurate air drops from 250ft at 250 knots, something the basic C-130 Hercules is unable to achieve.

People in Waveney will be particularly familiar with the Talon II's frequent ultra-low dash inland over the coast near Hopton and Corton, turning south to over-fly the Waveney Valley. It is an amazingly versatile and invaluable item in the USAF's inventory.

After taking lunch in the Galaxy Club, there was a briefing on the role of the 100th Air Refueling Wing, whose 351st Air Refueling Squadron have been operating their KC-135 Stratotankers out of Mildenhall since 1992.

Following their presentation entitled “Passing Gas - Tanker Style”, Pilot, Captain Kevin Haynie and Boom Operator (“Boomer”), Airman First Class, Steve Barry walked LAS members through their aircraft. The visitors were able to chat to the Pilot in the cockpit and to the “Boomer” at the extreme tail-end of the aircraft, seeing the view he gets, as he guides the fuel boom to pass fuel to the thirsty aircraft flying close behind and just below the tanker. The KC-135R Stratotanker, very similar to the Boeing 707 airliner, is another familiar shape in our skies as, mission accomplished, it coasts westward over Lowestoft and descends towards Mildenhall.

Before departing Mildenhall, LAS Chairman Roger Smith presented Captain Haynie with a framed photograph, taken by LAS member Paul Ratcliff, of the KC-135R Stratotanker which did a fly-by at the 2009 Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival.

Special thanks are due to Public Affairs Specialist Karen Abeyasekere, of Mildenhall's base community relations office. As our very patient guide and 'chaperone', she ensured our safe movement around the base and helped to make the visit such a great success.

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